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Shooting Cartridge Ammo Nomenclature Part 3; Boxer Primers, Martini Henry, Snider Enfield & More

Boxer and Berdan priming systems are the dominate means used by center fire cartridges. The Berdan was invented by an American, Hiram Berdan an engineer and highly regarded marksman who served as a Civil War skirmisher for the North. A primer uses a cup with a tiny quantity of impact sensitive compounds. When struck by the firing pin or hammer the cup is crushed igniting the primary mixture. The compound is ignited by crushing the mixture between the cup and a projection called the anvil. The Berdan primer has the anvil in the cartridge with two flash holes to channel the sparks into the powder chamber.

How Does a Boxer Primer Work?

Edward Mounier Boxer of the Royal Arsenal, a Brit invented the boxer primer. This has the anvil incorporated into the cup and a single ignition hole. Boxer cases are easily re-loaded. Interestingly the Boxer primer is the dominate primer in American ammunition, sporting and military, while European militaries the Berdan reigns supreme.
The 577-450 Boxer-Henry was boxer primed case used for the Martini-Henry rifle.

Martini Henry & Snider Enfield

The rifle used a Martini designed breech with Henry’s unique rifling. The Swiss designer improved the original rifle developed by Henry O. Peabody. Alexander Henry, a Scotsman, invented a polygon rifling for the barrel. Hence the name, Martini-Henry. The Snider develop by Jacob Snider, an American was a conversion design converting British Pattern 1853 muzzle loaders to cartridge fed breech loaders, much like the trapdoor design in America. 10 rounds a minute versus 3 per minute by muzzle and it was more accurate. The Snider-Enfield served from 1866 to 1873 when replaced by the Martini-Henry. It is obvious that the Snider-Enfield combining the name of the inventor Snider with the name of the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield and the previous name of the rifle. Martini-Henry after the improved design by Martini and Henry engineering a new rifling concept for the barrel.

Springfield Armory

In the US the dominate arsenal and weapons testing and design facility was the Springfield Armory. Thus, the Northerners relied on the Springfield weapons from 1777 until it closed in 1968. Now it is an arms museum and historical site in Springfield, Massachusetts. Most weapons produced by Springfield Armory were listed first as “Springfield” followed by Model, then by the rear of adoptions. Thus, the Springfield Model 1855, 1861 and 1863 Rifle Muskets of the Civil War. Here the naming convention is after the armory producing the weapon.

European Ammo Naming System

Another consideration is the European naming system using the metric systems with the bore followed by the case length. Thus the 9mm Luger or Parabellum is the 9 x 19mm. The US .308 Winchester is the 7.62 x 51mm NATO round (loaded to different pressures and chamber specs). The .223 Remington is the civilian version of the 5.56 x 45mm NATO, though not totally interchangeable due to pressure and chamber specs, the cartridge dimensions are the same. 223’s can be fired in military rifles, which have higher pressure tolerances and a longer free bore. But military ammo can cause dangerously high pressures in civilian sporting arms. Here we see the 9 x 33mmR. Who? What? Well this is the metric designations for the venerable 357 Magnum. The “R” is for rimmed.

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